Journalist Again Asked to Testify at Tribunal

Prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have formally called Thet Sambath, a journalist who built up a close relationship with Nuon Chea over 10 years of interviewing him, to testify in the second phase of Case 002.

The request from the co-prosecutors’ office claims that quotes from Pol Pot’s former second-in-command in Mr. Sambath’s documentary “Enemies of the People” and book “Behind the Killing Fields” illustrate his guilt in the current trial.

“The Co-Prosecutors submit that in his film and book, Mr. Thet [Sambath] has documented several admissions by Nuon Chea that prove his criminal responsibility for the crimes within the scope of Case 002/2,” says the request, which is dated May 7.

Mr. Sambath did not heed a request to appear in the first phase of Case 002. However, in an interview with Voice of America in January, he said he would testify “if the court openly gives me freedom.” Mr. Sambath did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Friday.

Nuon Chea’s defense team has also said they would like to see Mr. Sambath testify in the current trial.

In an interview from his home in Massachusetts last year, Mr. Sambath, a former reporter for The Cambodia Daily, was critical of the court’s narrow scope and voiced a desire to see members of the current government who are former Khmer Rouge cadre take the stand.

“I don’t see the current court is going the right way,” he said. “Even if this court sentences Nuon Chea or other Khmer Rouge leaders to their whole lives in prison, it’s useless because the Khmer Rouge tribunal does not summon…the people that were involved like the current leaders in the government and other former Khmer Rouge.”

Mr. Sambath said he has evidence of an “anti-Pol Pot” faction within the Khmer Rouge that “will turn history” and also claimed that Khieu Samphan—the former head of state who is on trial alongside Nuon Chea for crimes against humanity—knew little of the purges taking place under the regime’s watch.

“Khieu Samphan, when you see him, you think ‘Oh, he’s a big man’ but actually he doesn’t know anything. Yes, Khieu Sam­phan he knows just a little bit but not deeply regarding who is behind the killing fields,” Mr. Sambath said.

The former reporter, who moved to the U.S. after claiming the government attempted to run him off the road on numerous occasions, said he still has deep respect for Nuon Chea for staying true to his ideals after the fall of the regime.

“I don’t care who says he is a bad man or a communist man, I do not care about that. What I care about is that he is a real man. His ideas from 1950 until now, he’s the same man. He never changed. Many Khmer Rouge leaders, they became rich men. Some have millions of dollars,” he said. “Nuon Chea became very poor.”

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